Israeli company to explore gas in occupied Western Sahara

Israel's NewMed Energy today announced it has signed a deal with Morocco to produce natural gas offshore Boujdour, bringing former Cairn Energy back into the occupied territory. 

06 December 2022

Picture: In 2015, Cairn Energy and Kosmos Energy drilled for oil offshore Western Sahara on the Boujdour block. Now Cairn is linked to new drilling plans. The picture shows the drillship Atwood Achiever a few weeks before the drilling began.  

The Israeli company NewMed Energy stated on 6 December 2022 that it has signed an agreement with the Moroccan Ministry for Energy and Mining and Adarco Energy to explore and produce natural gas in the offshore Boujdour Atlantique block. The license thus corresponds to a location that is not part of Morocco, but of occupied Western Sahara.

NewMed and Adarco will each have a 37.5% stake in the license partnership, while the Moroccan ministry will hold the remaining 25%. The license has been granted for eight years.

The Boujdour Atlantique block was previously operated by US oil company Kosmos Energy, which held a 55% stake in the permit, while its partner UK company Capricorn - a subsidiary of Cairn Energy - held 20%. The remaining 25% was in the hands of ONHYM, the Moroccan National Office for Hydrocarbons and Mines. A spokesman of NewMed told Reuters that the company's plan is to begin exploratory drilling after about two and a half years. 

Interestingly, NewMed is at present in the phase of merging with Capricorn Energy - which is the name Cairn Energy today operates under since it changed name December 2021. If the merger concludes, former Cairn Energy will be back in the waters of Western Sahara after a 4,5 years hiatus.  

NewMed Energy is a subsidiary of the Delek Group and was formerly known as Delek Drilling LP. Delek Group Ltd is traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. 3 percent of the Delek Group shares are owned by the Norwegian government pension fund. In 2016, the Norwegian government excluded Cairn/Capricorn due to its “due to an unacceptable risk of the companies contributing to serious violations of fundamental ethical norms through their hydrocarbon exploration". The Norwegian government owned 2,86 percent of the Cairn shares at the time of exclusion. 

Several international investors had blacklisted both Kosmos and Cairn from their portfolios, for operating in breach of fundamental ethical norms. 

“Western Sahara Resource Watch calls on all investors in Delek Group to immediately engage with the company management over the matter and divest from the company if it proceeds with its plans. The intention to engage in gas exploration in the occupied territory undermines very basic principles of international law”, stated Erik Hagen of Western Sahara Resource Watch. 

Little is known about NewMed's partner Adarco Energy. A company with the name Adarco Energy Limited was registered in Gibraltar in May 2022 with a Moroccan citizen named Michael Elbaz, born 1984, as director. 

"This is a significant milestone for Adarco, whose managers have been active in the energy market for many years, Adarco CEO Harry Murphy told Israeli media

There are today two companies involved in hydrocarbon exploration in Western Sahara - both are from Israel. The other company is Ratio Petroleum, which secured the Dakhla Atlantique offshore block in October 2021. 

Read all about Kosmos'/Cairn's involvement in occupied Western Sahara in our report “Platform for Conflict”. 


Timeline - Kosmos/Cairn in occupied Western Sahara 

  • 29 October 2004. Kosmos Energy partners with Kerr-McGee for the ‘Boujdour block’, with a 30% share. 
  • 7 November 2005. Kosmos Energy first states that it plans to drill off the coast of Western Sahara.
  • 2006. Kerr-McGee leaves Western Sahara. Kosmos Energy signs an agreement for the operatorship of the ‘Boujdour block’. 
  • 2009. Kosmos Energy commissions 2D seismic services from the Dutch company Fugro NV. Saharawis demonstrate. Fugro later announces it "has decided to abstain from any further involvement in Western Sahara until the political situation has been resolved".
  • July 2013. BGP Prospector carried out seismic studies.
  • 25 October 2013. Kosmos signs an agreement with Capricorn Exploration & Development Company Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cairn Energy PLC to partner on the Boujdour project. Kosmos announces that it has identified three prospects, the largest of these, called Gargaa, at 2135 meters depth. The name of the block is changed to ‘Cap Boujdour Offshore’.
  • February 2014. A Kosmos company presentation states that the drilling ship Atwood Achiever will be used in Boujdour exploration-license area.
  • March 2014. Aker Solutions AS, which had been responsible for building and installing the drilling system on the Atwood Achiever, states that “if we had known that the equipment would be used in Western Sahara, we would not have signed this agreement”. The company cancelled the maintenance agreement it had with the drillship.
  • May 2014. BGP Prospector carried out a 3D study on the same block. 
  • Dec 2014-Feb 2015. The drillship Atwood Achiever carries out drilling for Kosmos on the block, the first ever oil exploration drilling under Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. 
  • June 2016. One of Kosmos Energy's biggest owners, Norway's sovereign wealth fund, divests from Kosmos for operating in breach of fundamental ethical norms. 
  • March 2017. Kosmos commissions yet another seismic study employing the BGP Prospector
  • 6 February 2018. ONHYM announces Kosmos' departure.
  • 6 December 2022. Israeli company NewMed signs a exploration and production agreement with ONHYM for the Boujdour block - while at the same time about to conclude a merger with Capricorn Energy (former Cairn Energy).


Deutsche Bank, BlackRock among owners in occupation oil hunt

Here are the owners of Delek Group which is behind the oil search offshore occupied Western Sahara. 

13 February 2023

NewMed insists following law - but which?

The Israeli company that signed an agreement for hydrocarbon exploration in occupied Western Sahara claims to follow “the laws in force”. But of which country?

06 February 2023

Kosmos and Cairn have pulled out of Western Sahara

17 years of US private company engagement in exploring the oil potential of Western Sahara has come to an end.

07 February 2018

Kosmos surveying oil potential near Dakhla again?

Over the past 24 hours, WSRW has observed a resumed seabed exploration north of Dakhla, in the block operated by American oil company Kosmos Energy in collaboration with Scotland's Cairn Energy.

26 October 2017